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Scorpion Home Defense

Scorpions are everywhere:

Many people think of scorpions as being a desert creature. However, these guys have been around since the Silurian Period (430 million years ago) and therefore, they have had lots of time to adapt to a huge range of environments.  As a result, scorpions are living on all continents except Antarctica (see scorpion range map below).

Fortunately, these critters are nocturnal and most of us don’t interact with them. After decades of gardening outside, I have only seen a few scorpions in the daytime, and those were ones that I have dug up by accident.  However, they do come out at night and are quite active hunting of other insects when they do come out at night.  Although these guys are fearsome looking and should be respected, they are also an important part of the natural ecosystem.  They play a critical role at keeping other insect numbers in check.

Areas that Scorpion lives

Scorpion range.  (Map from the Scorpion Systematics Research Group in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)) http://scorpion.amnh.org/page3/page3.html

 

Scorpions can get inside your home:

For the most part, scorpions go about their business outside without you ever noticing them. However, they are excellent climbers and do have an uncanny ability to get into the tiniest of crevices. So yea, they can definitely crawl into your home. I have a friend in Arizona that finds scorpions in her house every week. Yikes!

Scorpion in home

Scorpion under UV light. (Picture presented here is without any photo manipulation)

 

Don’t get stung by a scorpion:

Getting stung by a scorpion is a major bummer. Depending on the species, the sting can range from excruciatingly painful to deadly.

 

Protect yourself from scorpions:

Obviously you don’t want to get stung by these guys. Importantly, you want to keep scorpions out of the safety of your home.   Unfortunately, if they do get in your home, you may not even know it until you find out the hard (painful and creepy) way.

The following is a great list of organic techniques and suggestions to help keep your home safe.

 

Survey your domain:

Scorpions have excellent camouflage and can be hard to spot.  If you can’t see them it is hard to get rid of them.

The best way to find scorpions is with the use of a black light or Ultraviolet (UV) flashlight. It is truly amazing but scorpions glow a bright green-blue when you shine a black light near them.  They literally shine like a vibrant green-blue light bulb.  As a result, you can easily spot them from yards away with a UV light.

Scorpions glow brightly under UV light because of specific fluorescent chemicals in their cuticle.  Interestingly, just after a scorpion molts (grows out of its shell), it looses that UV light glowing effect for about a day. Fortunately, they tend to be fairly inactive during this time when the new shell is hardening.

scorpion fluorescence

A scorpion showing its excellent camouflage on a carpet on the left. These pictures were taken seconds apart with my phone. The UV light was not even directly on the scorpion in the picture to the right side. Pictures are without any photo manipulation. (you can click on this image to enlarge).

 

How to get a UV flashlight:

You can get these UV flash lights at many places.  I found mine on Amazon.com, but I am sure you could also find them at your favorite psychedelic store.

If you really want to optimize your purchase, there are two important variables to keep in mind when you are buying one of these UV flashlights.  The best glowing effect comes from a flashlight with a short wavelength and a higher wattage.

  1. Shorter wavelength = more UV glowing effect (a lower nanometer (Nm) number means more glow).
  2. Higher wattage = brighter light.

 

I bought two UV flashlights for myself on Amazon a while back.  One is a 395 Nm flashlight and the other is a 385 Nm flashlight.  They both work very similar.  However, you do get get a tad more glow effect with the lower wavelength number.  However, the last I checked on Amazon, the 385 Nm flashlight that I got is out of stock.  I now also see that there is a 365 Nm flashlight on Amazon which is a bit more expensive, however, at that lover wavelength it should have amazing fluorescent-glow power.

( I used the flashlight I got on Amazon to take the pics in this article and the video below)

 

Added bonus/use of a UV flashlight:

If you are a tomato grower, you likely know about the damaging effects of Tomato Hornworm’s.  These voracious bugs can quickly defoliate your precious tomato plants.   However, even though Tomato Hornworm’s have excellent camouflage, they are no match for a UV light.  So yes, Hornworm’s also glow an intense bright blue under a UV light and therefore they also stand out like a light bulb.  For more info about this,  check out an article I wrote about how to control Tomato Hornworm’s.

Tomato Hornworm: close up

Tomato Hornworm: close up

Tomato Hornworm glowing under UV light

Same Tomato Hornworm glowing under UV light

 

Other uses for a UV flashlight:

Many people also use UV flashlights to detect other important things.  For example, pee stains (or other unwanted body fluid stains) will glow under a UV light.   In my opinion, it is not a bad idea to survey where you are going to sleep if you are staying in some unfamiliar places such as hotels.  Lots of pet owners also use UV flashlights to track down the source of the urine-stain smells of their naughty pets.  A UV light may also help you find mice/rat hangouts because those rodents pee where they eat and hide.  There are all kinds of other things you can do with a UV light ranging from authenticating oil paintings, antiques and banknotes.  Many more uses for a UV light via wikipedia.

 

Remove the scorpions:

Now that you have found the critters with your UV flashlight, you have a few options to remove the threat.  If you want to “catch and release”, you need to be very careful.  Again, your safety needs to come first, so be sure you know what you are doing.

A common way to catch bugs alive is to first put a glass cup over them. Then you can slide a thin piece of cardboard underneath the glass.  Once captured this way, you can transport them outside.  Since I am a sucker for not killing things, this is the method I use. However, it is a bit dangerous because you are dealing with a live and poisonous creature. Therefore, for the sake of all things legal, I have to say; ‘dont try this at home unless you are a trained professional.’  Sigh.

There is also specific bug catchers/vacuum devices on the market that may help you catch an insect. Here is a link to one called the “Bug Zooka.”   However, I don’t know if this bug catching tool would be any safer or easier to use than the glass-cardboard technique… I am just putting it out there as an option.

Then, of course,  there is the old faithful method of just stepping on them.

Some will opt to directly spray them with insecticides.  However, once you find a scorpion, I think it is totally unnecessary to then directly spray them with chemicals that will fill you home with toxins.

It is important to know that mother scorpions carry their babies on their back.   So, regardless of  your method of removal, be aware that you might be exposed to 30 + tiny scorpions as well.  What a nightmare.

Sticky traps for scorpions:

There are commercial sticky taps available for unwanted guests such as scorpions and mice. No harsh chemicals with this method; its basically just sticky stuff on paper.  To set the traps, simply put them out and the scorpions will get stuck on them when they try to scurry past.

 

Seal things up:

The obvious things are important too. Namely, keep your doors and windows closed and repair window screens that are ripped.

It is surprising, but scorpions can squeeze into really tiny spaces.  Therefore, seal up any cracks where bugs could get in around your windows, doors, floorboards, pipes, drains, fittings, vents, etc.   Check the outside dryer vents and places where pipes and wires enter the home.  Install weather-stripping around loose-fitting doors and windows.

I like to use clear caulk to seal up cracks/holes around windows etc.   If you get the tubes of caulk, you also need to have a caulking gun. Alternatively, you can hire a professional to do all of this sealing stuff for you.

Note: make sure that you don’t have any scorpions in your home before you seal them in (see UV light discussion above).  Amazingly, I have a friend that has had her home professionally sealed for scorpions and she still finds them in her home.  Therefore, even after things are professionally sealed up, it is a good idea to do a regular UV light survey.

Landscape for home safety:

Bugs (and rodents) of all sorts have a better chance of gaining access to your home if there is a natural bridge. Therefore, keep bushes and overhanging branches away from your house. This is also a good idea from a fire safety perspective.

Likewise, keep woodpiles (a favorite scorpion hiding place) away from the foundation of your house.  Be very careful when bringing wood for the fireplace into your home.  I would definitely not want to keep piles of wood inside the home.

Also: I personally do not put wood mulch up against the foundation of the house. Wood mulch is a great place for all kinds of bugs to live including termites and scorpions.  Basically, I don’t want to give them a place to gather and conspire at the edge of my domain.  Instead, I use gravel-stones on top of weed cloth/fabric for the ground that abuts the foundation of the house.

Keep it clean:

Scorpions are hunters. Like their spider cousins, they eat other bugs. Therefore, they are attracted to areas where other insects are hanging around.  Likewise, many of the insects that scorpions eat are attracted to scraps of food laying around.  Therefore, be diligent about sweeping up the crumbs and things in your kitchen etc.  Dog/cat food is also a big attractor of insects.

The good news is that taking these precautions will also reduce the risk of other freeloaders setting up shop in your home (like roaches and black widow spiders, etc).

 

Things I am skeptical of:

Some have suggested that a bundle of lavender and even citrus will keep scorpions away.  Although I do like lavender and oranges, I suspect that specific idea is folklore.  I would not rely on this method to keep your home safe from scorpions.

Gopher resistent

French Lavender (Lavandula dentata)

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

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